India has requested Pakistan to let Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan where he has to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on June 13 and June 14, said a senior government official.
Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after an Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. Since then, it has only opened two routes, both of them pass through southern Pakistan, of the total 11.
“We have requested Pakistan to let the PM’s plane fly over its airspace through one of the routes that has not been opened as yet. The PM has to attend the SCO meet on June 13 and June 14,” a senior government official said.
Pakistan had given special permission to India’s then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21.
Apart from the two routes through southern Pakistan, the neighbouring country’s airspace remains closed for commercial airliners.
The IAF announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot airstrike have been removed. However, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.
Among Indian airlines, the international operations of Air India and IndiGo have been affected by the closure of Pakistani airspace.
IndiGo, India’s largest airline by share in domestic passenger market, has been unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of Pakistani airspace.
The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March this year. It has to take the longer route every time over the Arabian Sea and make a stop either at Doha in Qatar or at Ahmedabad in Gujarat for refuelling.
Similarly, full-service carrier Air India is unable to fly non-stop flights from Delhi to the US since the closure of Pakistani airspace.